I propose to take Questions Nos. 62 and 65 together.
On behalf of the government I want to acknowledge the excellent work undertaken by Civil Defence during Storm Emma and the recent heavy snowfall. Over 350 Civil Defence volunteers, using the range of assets available, provided support to the Principal Response Agencies during the course of the Storm and its aftermath. Actions undertaken by Civil Defence included bringing patients and staff to and from hospitals; bringing nurses and home helps out to visit vulnerable people; delivering food, fuel and medicines to elderly people in their homes; transporting urgent medical supplies; assisting An Garda Síochána and assisting the transport services.
Under the Framework for Major Emergency Management, the local authorities have primary responsibility for dealing with severe weather and flooding. Civil Defence have provided great support to the local authorities in dealing with these type of emergencies not just during Storm Emma but also, for example, during last year’s flooding both in Mountmellick, Co Laois and in Inishowen, Co Donegal.
The 2015 White Paper on Defence sets out government policy in relation to Civil Defence. It states that the future of Civil Defence will continue to be developed around its central strategic objective of supporting the Principal Response Agencies in a number of emergency and non-emergency situations. This includes a wide range of emergencies at national and local level including severe weather, flooding and searches for missing persons.
The Department of Defence is charged with the management and development of Civil Defence at national level. The Department provides policy direction, centralised training through the Civil Defence College, administrative support and guidance and centralised procurement of major items of uniform and equipment in support of local authority Civil Defence efforts.
Civil Defence is funded by way of a grant from the Defence Vote. Funding for Civil Defence operations at local level is shared on a 70/30 basis between the Department of Defence and local authorities by way of an annual grant to each authority.
Civil Defence services are delivered through the Civil Defence Officer (CDO) of the relevant Local Authority for that area. The CDO is a full time employee of the local authority and is responsible for the day-to-day management of Civil Defence matters under the overall direction of the relevant Chief Executive. Volunteers join Civil Defence through the local authority for their area and undergo relevant training to deliver activities required by the local authority and the other principal response agencies. A number of volunteers may progress and qualify as Civil Defence Instructors.
The Civil Defence College, which is part of my Department, is recognised as a training institution by regulatory bodies such as the Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council (PHECC) and by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI). Training in a wide variety of programmes is provided by the College to the Civil Defence Volunteer Instructors. When trained, Instructors return to their respective local authority areas and provide training to the Volunteers based there.
The wide range of roles undertaken is what makes Civil Defence unique among volunteer based emergency response organisations. For this reason, a very wide range of training is provided within Civil Defence. This includes training in first aid up to Emergency Medical Technician level, training in manual handling and people handling, search management training, swiftwater training, map reading, child protection, food preparation, radiation monitoring, pump operation, sandbagging, powerboat operation, use of drones, Critical Incident Stress Management, radio communications, setting up rest centres etc.
The training needs for Civil Defence are kept under review to ensure that the organisation can continue to provide effective support to the Principal Response Agencies in dealing with a variety of emergency and non-emergency situations. This includes assisting the local authorities in dealing with severe weather. My Department will be undertaking a review of Civil Defences response to the recent severe weather in conjunction with Civil Defence Officers from around the country. This review will help identify any needs for additional training or equipment arising from Storm Emma.
The government is committed to continuing to support Civil Defence both in the areas of training and equipment to ensure that Civil Defence can fulfil its important role.